Worker Hurt Walking to Train Not in Scope and Course of Work

Say you are coming home from work and you are injured; are you entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania? As we have mentioned previously, generally, an employee is not eligible for injuries suffered in the commute to or from work (known as the “Going and Coming Rule”). Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed this issue again in Mansfield Brothers Painting and Selective Insurance Company of America v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).

A union painter was assigned to work full-time for his employer at the University of Pennsylvania. While on his way home from the job one day, the painter fell near the train station, and hurt his left shoulder, neck and back. A Claim Petition was filed and litigated before a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ).

The facts were not in dispute. The painter was hired to work at a specific building on the Penn campus, which only had a single entrance. He elected to commute to work by train. On the walk to the train station, about 150 feet from the exit of the building in which he worked, the painter fell on an uneven slate walkway and suffered these injuries. The fall took place while the painter was still on Penn’s campus.

Based on these facts, without explanation, the WCJ granted the Claim Petition and awarded the painter temporary total disability benefits. On appeal, the WCAB affirmed the granting of the benefits. Specifically, the WCAB found that the painter was in the scope and course of his employment at the time of the injury because “Claimant was injured while on premises where [Employer’s] business affairs were being carried on (i.e.) the [University] campus and that a condition of the premises (i.e.) the uneven slate pathway, contributed to Claimant’s work injury.”

Unfortunately for the injured worker, this decision was reversed on appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. First, the Court noted that the employer was not the University of Pennsylvania, but the painting contractor. Though one can be on “employer’s property” for the purposes of workers’ compensation when on property not actually owned by the employer “when the employer requires employees to use that property,” that was not the case here. The Court found that employer (the painting contractor) only worked in that one building, not the entire campus. Therefore, the injured worker was hurt on the University’s premises, but not premises owned or controlled by his employer. The employer had no rule or interest in the method the injured worker used to come to work. The fact the building had only one exit became irrelevant once the injured worker travelled such a distance from that exit.

The Court also found the injured worker was not a “travelling employee,” who would have a greater latitude of coverage in the commute. The painter was assigned to a specific project and was expected to remain at that project until such project was completed. The role of a visiting nurse, assigned to many different locations at the same time, was differentiated by the Court.